Pro-choice organizations across Texas are working to provide residents with access to free emergency contraception and other reproductive health needs in the wake of the state’s near-total ban on abortion.
Feminists for Reproductive Equity and Education (FREE Aggies), a student organization at Texas A&M University and a chapter of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Generation Action program, focuses on fighting for reproductive justice through direct action and peer-to-peer services. The group hosts a pick-up service for students and community members, providing sexual health resources such as emergency contraception (e.g. Plan B), condoms, lubricants, and pregnancy tests, as well as menstrual hygiene products. Their services are free of cost and free of judgment.
“We want to make sure people have access to any sexual health product they need in order to live their best lives and have complete medical autonomy over their decisions,” said Nimisha Srikanth, a FREE Aggies committee member.
Srikanth said the organization saw an increase in demand for emergency contraception after the passage of Senate Bill 8 earlier this month, the law that prohibits patients in Texas from obtaining legal abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
“College students are typically not ready to become parents, and probably will rely on more sexual health resources to make sure they do not have an unplanned pregnancy,” Srikanth said.
Texas A&M students started FREE Aggies in spring 2020 after realizing that COVID-19 restrictions would disrupt people’s access to sexual health products. Srikanth said that the program and its services are well received in the community and that the organization has not faced any backlash so far.
FREE Aggies works with Emergency Contraception for Every Campus (EC4EC), a project of the American Society for Emergency Contraception. EC4EC partners with college campuses to share information, support, and strategy about emergency contraception.
The organization encourages peer-to-peer services, such as the one provided by FREE Aggies, because they help students avoid barriers and judgment. EC4EC guarantees that participating organizations will conduct these services with discretion and confidentiality.
Efforts to increase access to emergency contraception and other sexual health resources in Texas are also happening outside of college campuses.
Sex worker Makayla Montoya Frazier founded Buckle Bunnies Fund in April 2020 after Gov. Greg Abbott deemed abortions nonessential procedures and temporarily banned them due to COVID-19. The organization, which focuses on funding abortion clinics and providing funds and transportation to those seeking abortions, now collects emergency contraception and pregnancy tests for Texas residents who are taking extra precautions due to Senate Bill 8.
Kat Smith, a volunteer for Buckle Bunnies Fund, told USA Today that people are worried they won’t detect their pregnancies by the sixth week and they are resorting to weekly tests and extra contraceptives as a result—a practice that can become costly since emergency contraception prices can range between $30-$65, and at-home pregnancy tests can cost around $15 apiece.
On Sept. 17, the federal government announced that it is providing additional funding to Every Body Texas, the statewide administrator of the federal Title X funding program that provides family planning and reproductive health services to low-income patients.
The federal government is also launching a new funding program called Funding to Address Dire Need for Family Planning Services. This program will allow any entity across the country, regardless of whether it receives Title X funding, to apply for and receive additional money to provide reproductive and family planning services to patients impacted by Senate Bill 8. Through the program, the federal government expects to award 10 grants between $150,000 and $1.5 million by the end of this year.
To ensure people around Texas continue to have access to emergency contraception and other resources for sexual health, organizations like FREE Aggies and Buckle Bunnies Fund are ramping up their outreach through social media. EC4EC is also helping college campuses install sexual wellness vending machines so students and community members have a confidential, low-cost method of accessing sexual wellness products.
“We hope to help improve access [to] sexual and reproductive health resources in the area while providing a safe place for people to make important health decisions for themselves,” Srikanth said.